How could anyone possibly know how the world began? Nobody was
there taking notes when it happened! And how could anyone know what was
in the mind of God when He made the first man and woman? No one could
know these things unless God Himself took the initiative to tell somebody.
And that is precisely what He did.
We can reasonably assume that God spoke with Adam and Eve about His
joy in creating the universe and that they passed these stories on to their
children. But stories that are handed down from generation to generation in
this way become distorted, and so it is important to realize that God revealed
these things more directly.
Later in our journey, we will meet with Moses. God appeared to him visibly
and spoke to him audibly (Numbers 12:8). This unique privilege of speaking
with God face to face enabled Moses to write what God gave him to say in
the first five books of the Bible.
The Creator Is the Owner
The first thing God wants you to know is that He is your Creator. "In the
beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). That's
important, because a creator always has the rights of ownership over anything
that he or she has made. God wants you to know that He is the Creator and
therefore the owner of everything, including you.
That tells you something magnificent, not only about God but also about
yourself. You are not an accident of history whose existence is the result
of certain atoms colliding by random chance. God made you on purpose, and
you will discover that purpose as you come to know Him.
A Breathtaking Initiative
Try to imagine the Creator at work. Day after day God added new dimensions
to His creation: light, sky, seas, vegetation, the sun, moon, and stars, fish,
birds, and animals. Each was conceived in the mind of God, and when He
spoke, He called them into being. As each creative act was completed, God
reviewed His work and announced that it was good.
It was at this point that God crowned His creation with a breathtaking
initiative. "God said, 'Let us make man in our image'" (Genesis 1:26).
God made you to reflect something of His own nature and glory so that as
people look at you they would see some reflection of God Himself. This is
what gives unique dignity and value to every human life. All of the animals
were made by God, but none of them were made like God.
Enjoying the Goodness of God
Adam enjoyed life in a garden called Eden, which God had planted near the
Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (Genesis 2:8-14). While we can't pinpoint its
exact location, it was probably somewhere in the area of modern Iraq.
Life in Eden was awesome. It was so different from anything we have experienced
that it is difficult for us to grasp. But it is well worth using our
imagination to try.
Adam enjoyed the privilege of working in direct partnership with God. His
first task was to name the animals as God brought them to him (Genesis 2:19).
Giving names may not sound like significant work, but actually this was the
first scientific endeavor. Science, at its heart, is about observing, classifying,
and describing, and that was the first work God gave Adam to do.
Everything Adam needed was provided in the garden. When he was hungry,
he only needed to reach up and pick the fruit from the trees. His work was
fulfilling, he was protected from danger, and he enjoyed perfect health. It was
heaven on earth.
The greatest joy of life in Eden was the immediate, visible presence of God.
God is Spirit, and so He is invisible to us. But in the Garden of Eden,
God took on a visible form so that Adam could know Him. We call this a
theophany. God came and walked with Adam in the garden (Genesis 3:8).
A Marriage Made in Heaven
God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone, and so the Lord made
a woman and brought her to the man (Genesis 2:18, 22). Imagine Adam's
delight when God made the introduction!
God could have created Eve and left the two of them to find each other in
the garden. But He didn't do that. God was actively involved in bringing the
two of them together. Try to picture God joining their hands and giving His
blessing on their shared life together.
The first couple would face their share of problems in the future, but they
could never doubt that they had been joined together by God. That is true of
every marriage, and that is why marriage is sacred.
A View from the Mountain
Pause for a moment to take in this view, of the world as God made it. Imagine
what it must have been like to live in this perfect environment, sharing the
joys of a loving and intimate marriage, growing in knowledge, experience,
and skill through creative and fulfilling work, and most of all cultivating a
deep relationship with God, whose visits to the garden brought great delight.
Life as we know it is only a shadow of the mountaintop experience our first
parents enjoyed in Eden. God wants you to know what their life was like and
how you can recover what has been lost.
It's time to leave the first mountain of the Bible story. We move on reluctantly,
because the next stop on our journey is a deep valley.
We have made some wonderful discoveries here. God is the Creator of all
things. He made everything good. He has created men and women in His
own image, giving unique dignity and value to every life.
Some may believe that life is richer when God is at a distance, but the mountaintop
experience of life in the Garden of Eden teaches us that life is never
richer than when God is near.
If life was so good in the Garden of Eden, why is it so different today?
The answer to that question lies in the first valley of the Bible story.
When God put Adam in the Garden of Eden, He said, "You are free to eat
from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die" (Genesis
Adam and Eve already knew about good. They had never experienced
anything else. God wanted to keep them from the knowledge of evil. In His
single loving command, God was saying, "There is a power at work in
the wider universe called evil. You don't know anything about it, and I don't
want you ever to experience it. I want you to live in freedom from its terrible
destructive power. Don't touch evil. It will destroy you."
Where Did Evil Come From?
The Bible never gives us a full explanation of the origin of evil, but it does
tell us where it began. Alongside the visible world that we know, God made
an invisible creation in heaven and filled it with angels.
Satan (the name means "adversary") was one of these angels. He became
inflated with pride and tried to usurp the position of God (see Isaiah
14:12-14). Pride lies at the root of all evil.
The rebellion was unsuccessful and led to Satan's being excluded from the
presence of God and cast down to the earth. So right from the beginning of
human history, there was already an enemy bent on destroying the work of
God. His first aim was to introduce the man and the woman to the knowledge
Recruiting for the Rebellion
Satan came into the Garden of Eden with the aim of recruiting the human race
into his rebellion against God. He came in the form of an alluring serpent,
presenting himself as a friend, and began to question God's single command.
"God knows that when you eat of it [the tree] your eyes will be opened, and
you will be like God," he said (Genesis 3:5). "Eat from this tree," Satan was
saying, "and you will have everything. You've got the knowledge of good, but
if you want to be complete, you need the knowledge of evil."
Adam and Eve decided that this was what they wanted. They broke God's
single command, and in that act of disobedience they gained the knowledge
of evil. We have all lived with it ever since. The knowledge of evil became a
power at work in human personality that was passed on through each generation
and in every culture.
The knowledge of evil is the primary problem of the human race. You can't
read a newspaper without being reminded that after all the advances of
human history we still struggle with evil in all its ugly forms.
The struggle is not just around us, it is also inside us. Why is it that you would
do something that made you miserable the last time you did it? There is a
power at work in human personality that none of us can fully understand. We
are all born to this struggle.
Hope in a Curse
God will never allow evil to have the last word. He came to the garden and
confronted Satan, announcing that his rebel kingdom would not stand.
"Cursed are you," God said (Genesis 3:14). When a person or thing is "cursed,"
it is consigned to destruction. So when God cursed the Serpent, He was
announcing that evil would not stand. Then God spoke about a deliverer who
would crush the Serpent's head (verse 15). When Adam and Eve heard this,
they must have been overjoyed.
Then God turned to Adam and again spoke that condemning word. "Cursed
." Adam must have felt that he would be caught up in Satan's destruction.
But instead of saying to Adam "cursed are you," as the Lord did to the
Serpent, God said, "Cursed is the ground because of you" (verse 17).
God deflected the curse away from Adam so that it fell on the ground and not
on him directly. In this way God kept His judgment from Adam, creating
room for a future reconciliation. On the day he sinned, Adam discovered the
grace and mercy of God. The curse that should have been on him went to
another place. That tells you one of the most important things you need to
know about the God of the Bible-He is a God of mercy as well as justice.
Excluded from the Garden
There is no place for evil in the presence of God. Just as Satan's rebellion led
to his being cast out of heaven, so our first parents' sin led to their being
excluded from the garden where they had known the blessing and presence
of God (Genesis 3:23).
Life became a daily struggle in a hostile place, where they were exposed to all
kinds of danger from wild animals. The perfect marriage became strained.
Work was frustrating as thorns and thistles sprouted from the ground. And
when evening came, they must have wondered if God would come and walk
with them, but He never did.
Over time, they would notice lines and wrinkles in their skin. They would
experience pain and discover that the "death" God had spoken about was a
terrible reality they could not avoid.
God placed cherubim-angels representing His judgment and holiness-at
the entrance to the garden, along with a flaming sword flashing back and
forth, barring the way to the Tree of Life. Adam and Eve were alienated from
God and alone in a hostile world. Paradise was lost, and there seemed to be
no way back.
Darkness in the First Valley
This is the Bible's analysis of the human problem: We have the knowledge of
evil, and we have been excluded from the place where God's presence and
blessing were known.
The curse is the first valley of the Bible story. The world became a dark place.
The rest of the story is about what God has done to shine His light into our
darkness, to deliver us from evil, and to open the way back to paradise. So let's
head for the second mountain.
Imagine Eve's terror and then her joy as she gave birth to the first
human baby. Cain seemed to bring fresh hope to the darkened world, but
years later that hope was dashed when he killed his brother Abel (Genesis
4:8). The world's first baby became the world's first murderer. The world's first
family was splintered, and in their deep pain the world's first parents cried out
to God for help (Genesis 4:26).
Evil and violence multiplied as the generations of human history passed. One
act of disobedience in the garden led to a tide of violence that swept across
the earth. "The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had
become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil
all the time" (Genesis 6:5).